Thursday, September 29, 2011

CFP: PCA/ACA Conference 2012

This is a call for papers for one of the subject areas covered at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association's 2012 Conference, which is being held in Boston from April 11 - 14, 2012. Apparently this "is a week later than we have traditionally held it in the past."

Deadline for submission:  December 15, 2011.

We are interested in any and all topics about or related to popular romance:  all genres, all media, all countries, all kinds, and all eras. All representations of romance in popular culture (fiction, stage, screen—large or small, commercial, advertising, music, song, dance, online, real life, etc.), from anywhere and any-when, are welcome topics of discussion.

This year we are especially interested in papers on Romance on/and/in Television, to be presented on panels jointly sponsored by the Romance and the TV areas.

The Romance Area is also co-sponsoring with the Gay/Lesbian/Queer area papers that discuss BDSM and Kink in any form. Representations of BDSM/Kink in popular media and/or discussions of real-life BDSM/Kink practices and practitioners are all welcome. Romance is not a necessary component of papers to be presented in BDSM/Kink.

We will consider proposals for individual papers, sessions organized around a theme, and special panels. Sessions are scheduled in one-hour slots, ideally with four papers or speakers per standard session.

If you are involved in the creative industry of popular romance (romance author/editor, film director/producer, singer/songwriter, etc.) and are interested in speaking on your own work or on developments in the representations of popular romance, please contact us!

Some possible topics for Romance (although we are by no means limited to these):
  • Popular Romance on the World Stage (texts in translation, Western and non-Western media, local and comparative approaches)
  • Romance Across the Media: crossover texts and the relationships between romance fiction and romantic films, music, art, drama, etc.; also the paratexts and contexts of popular romance
  • Romance High and Low: texts that fall between “high” and “low” culture, or that complicate the distinctions between these critical categories
  • Romance Then and Now: representations of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Romantic, Modern, Postmodern love
  • Romancing the Marketplace: romantic love in advertising, marketing, and consumer culture
  • Queering the Romance: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender romance, and representations of same-sex love within predominantly heterosexual texts
  • BDSM Romance and representations of romantic/erotic power exchange
  • Romance communities
  • New Critical Approaches, such as readings informed by critical race theory, queer theory, postcolonial studies, or empirical science (e.g., the neurobiology of love)
  • The Politics of Romance, and romantic love in political discourse (revolutionary, reactionary, colonial / anti-colonial, etc.)
  • Individual Creative Producers or Texts of Popular Romance (novels, authors, film, directors, writers, songwriters, actors, composers, dancers, etc.)
  • Gender-Bending and Gender-Crossing / Genre-Bending and Genre-Crossing / Media-Bending and Media-Crossing Popular Romance
  • African-American, Latina, Asian, and other Multicultural romance
  • Young Adult Romance
  • History of/in Popular Romance
  • Romance and Region:  places, histories, mythologies, traditions
  • Definitions and Theoretical Models of Popular Romance: it’s not all just happily ever after

As we do every year, the Romance area will meet in a special Open Forum to discuss upcoming conferences, work in progress, and the future of the field of Popular Romance Studies.  All are welcome to attend.

Presenters are encouraged to make use of the new array of romance scholarship resources online, including the romance bibliography, the RomanceScholar listserv, and the open Forums at the webpage of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance.

Submit a one-page (200-300 words) proposal or abstract by December 15, 2011, to the Area Chair in Romance:

Sarah S. G. Frantz

If you have any questions as all, please contact the area chair.  Please feel free to forward, cross-post, or link to this call for papers.

On the topic of CFPs and conferences, don't forget that the IASPR 2012 conference, focusing this year on the topic of "The Pleasures of Romance," will be held in York from 27-29 September. Proposals for "individual papers, full panels, roundtables, interviews, or innovative presentations" need to be sent to by May 1, 2012.

The image of the television was created by Robert Couse-Baker and was downloaded from Flikr under a Creative Commons licence. The BDSM symbol was created by Aida, released into the public domain by Aida and AnonMoos, and downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CFP: Love in Crisis, Love as Crisis, Love Against Catastrophe

Eric has proposed a seminar for the American Comparative Literature Association's 2012 Annual Meeting which
will take place at Brown University, Providence, RI from March 29th to April 1st, 2012. [...] The ACLA’s annual conferences have a distinctive structure in which most papers are grouped into twelve-person seminars that meet two hours per day for the three days of the conference to foster extended discussion. Some eight-person (or smaller) seminars meet just the first two days of the conference.
Here's the call for papers for Eric's seminar:
Since at least the 1920s, literary and cultural commentators have warned that modern lovers, hell-bent on investigating love, desire, and the self, would undermine all three. “We never say the word Love, do we; –we know it’s a suspect ideological construct” Maud Bailey shrugs in A. S. Byatt’s Possession, her symptoms shared by the patients Julia Kristeva discusses in Histoires d’Amour: men and women who suffer “crises of love. Let’s admit it: lacks of love.” In 1993, the New York Times announced the “Death of Eros” to readers of its Sunday magazine, and as ethnomusicologist Martin Stokes notes in The Republic of Love, Turkish novelists like Orhan Pamuk and Elif Şafak have recently suggested that love there, too, is “in a state of crisis.”
Yet is not love itself a sort of crisis? From Sappho to the Surrealists, Dante to Dil Se, Nizami to Jean-Luc Nancy, love seizes the body, shatters the heart, and annihilates the self, turning old life to new.    And what of other enduring discourses– psychological, theological, literary, and political–that frame love as a force that resists and rebuilds in the face of catastrophe? (Against the Nakba, Mahmoud Darwish thus declares himself a “Lover from Palestine.”)
This seminar invites papers on love in crisis, love as crisis, and love in the face of catastrophe, in literary texts, popular media, and works of critical theory. Ideally our seminar will span multiple periods, genres, traditions, and cultures of love, bringing them into productive conversation; all approaches are welcome.
Apparently "The Deadline for Paper Proposals has been extended to November 15, 2011."

The photo was taken by CarbonNYC and was made available under a Creative Commons licence at Flikr.

Friday, September 23, 2011

CFP: Teaching, Women's Writing, Travelling Women

The following three calls for papers were announced in the latest email digest from The Middlebrow Network.

Teaching Tainted Lit: Popular American Fiction and the Perils and Pleasures of the Classroom

Essay contributions are sought for a volume entitled Teaching Tainted Lit: Popular American Fiction and the Perils and Pleasures of the Classroom, to be edited by Janet G. Casey. Taking as its premise the idea that popular fiction has secured a solid position in higher education classrooms, this collection seeks to explore its pedagogical implications. Possible topics may include:
  • unusual or insightful uses of the popular in the context of college English
  • historical or contemporary struggles over the teaching of popular texts
  • the politics and intersections of popularity and canonicity as they pertain to the classroom
  • anxieties and pleasures (on the parts of students and/or teachers) located in reading the popular
  • differences in attitudes about studying historical and contemporary popular texts
  • relations between teaching the popular and the perceived crisis in the humanities
  • teaching the American popular outside the U.S.
  • issues of publication and dissemination that affect teaching (e.g., working with magazines; problems associated with out-of-print materials).
Essays that focus on a particular text and its pedagogical ramifications are also welcome, especially if they put broader questions into play. Personal/anecdotal postures invited.  Please send a 300-word abstract and cv to by 15 Jan. 2012.  Invited essays will be due in late 2012.

Postgraduate Conference: The Popular and The Middlebrow: Women’s Writing 1880–1940
12 April 2012, Newcastle University.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Nicola Humble (Roehampton)

This event aims to bring together postgraduate researchers from across the UK and beyond to discuss the growing interest in and importance of the categories of the middlebrow and the popular as ways of engaging with women’s writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both of these terms have become crucial ways of exploring the work of more marginalised female writers who were not directly involved in larger intellectual discourses such as Modernism or social realism, but who enjoyed a great deal of success during their own time. From the regency romances of Georgette Heyer to the crime fiction of Agatha Christie, from the muted socialist politics of Winifred Holtby to the witty asides of Molly Keane, the conference reasserts the importance of these women’s writing as part of a wider literary tradition. It encourages papers which both work with and interrogate the terms ‘popular’ and ‘middlebrow’ as well as those which choose to apply them to the work of a specific woman or group of women in order to challenge or consolidate their usage. It asks: do the terms still contain inherent value judgements? Are they problematic when applied to women’s literature? Or do they engender a challenge to preconceptions about women and literary history, allowing for a reconceptualization of notions of canonicity?
  • Possible topics include:
  • Women writers and the popular
  • Women writers and the middlebrow
  • Domesticity and the home
  • Place and landscape
  • War and politics
  • Queer fictions
  • Marginalised women writers
  • Violence
  • Women writing romance
  • Women and historical fictions
  • Women writers and science fiction
Proposals of no more than 300 words should be emailed to by 30 November 2011.

The conference has a website.

Moving Dangerously: Women and Travel, 1850-1950
13-14 April 2012, Newcastle University.

Keynote Speakers: Alexandra Peat (University of Toronto) and Avril Maddrell (University of the West of England)

The period between 1850 and 1950 is widely acknowledged to have been one of dramatic societal and cultural change, not least in terms of women’s experience of and relationship to travel. The rapid expansion of the travel networks both nationally and internationally towards the end of the nineteenth century coincided with the impact of first wave feminism, as the suffragette movement gathered momentum and the figure of the New Woman appeared. By 1950, new forms of technology and transport, and their widespread availability, had substantially altered women’s perception of and ability to travel.

This two-day international and interdisciplinary conference invites papers that explore the changing relationship of women and travel across key moments in modernity, such the First World War and its effects on women’s independence, the developments in British Imperial activity, and the boom in rail, air and sea travel. The conference aims to stimulate academic discussion on a range of topics relating to women and travel in the period ranging from 1850-1950. These topics include representations of women and travel in fiction and film, non-fictional portrayals and documentations, as well as archival work on first-hand accounts of women travellers. As such, we welcome papers from those working in the fields of Literature, History, Geography, Film and Media, Modern Languages, Gender/Women’s Studies, and Politics.

Potential paper topics might include considerations of: both published and unpublished travel-writings by women of the period; fictional accounts of travel written by women throughout the period; representations of women travellers in contemporary biography; representations of women and travel during the period in fiction and film, and the benefits of archival research into women and travel on contemporary understandings of women’s role in modernity.

Please send abstracts of 250 words for 20 minute papers to: by 30 November 2011.

The conference has a website.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Return of Heathcliff

Kate Walker's latest romance, The Return of the Stranger, is based on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and on Saturday 17 September she gave a talk about them at the 2011 Brontë Festival of Women's Writing (organised by the Brontë Society and the Brontë Parsonage Museum). As stated in the programme, Kate is "A huge admirer of the Brontës, she wrote her MA thesis on the work of Charlotte and Emily Brontë." I was very pleased to be able to interview Kate on behalf of those of us who couldn't get to Haworth.
Laura: When I first learned that you'd be writing a romance based on Wuthering Heights as part of a four-book Harlequin Mills & Boon series (The Powerful and the Pure) based on classic novels I thought you perhaps had the hardest job of the four authors. They based theirs on Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. You have Wuthering Heights and although I suppose it's possible to argue that Wuthering Heights fits the Romance Writers of America's definition of a romance because it has "a central love story" (RWA) and "the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love" (RWA), by the time Catherine and Heathcliff are finally united they're both dead and have brought misery to almost everyone in their vicinity.

Who came up with the idea for the series and how did you end up writing a romance based on Wuthering Heights?

Kate Walker: Thanks for inviting me to do this interview Laura – it’s been fascinating wearing both of my ‘hats’ as an academic and a writer of popular romance to look at Wuthering Heights and answer your questions.

OK – so the idea for writing the mini series based on these classic books of romantic fiction was originally put to me by my editor. It was one of the editorial ideas that were being considered at the time and I’d recently written a book in a series on the Greek Myths which had been very popular, so with that and my MA in English Lit, I suppose I was a pretty natural choice as one of the authors involved. Originally, I was asked to write a book inspired by Mrs Gaskell’s North and South – I suppose because of the hugely successful TV production here in the UK, but I wondered if perhaps American readers might think this was the North and South by John Jakes that was televised starring Patrick Swayze. I was working on The Proud Wife at the time and there was a bit of a rethink, then next I heard was that they now wanted me to do Wuthering Heights. I’d recently appeared on a panel discussing the Brontës and Romantic Fiction at an event organised by The Brontë Society and of course Mills and Boon know about my MA thesis on Emily and Charlotte’s childhood writings and how they reflected in the adult novels they wrote.

So Wuthering Heights was mine – I think I’d have been very jealous of anyone who’d been asked to do this one! But yes, it was a problematic novel to work on as a romance writer. I’ve said several times that I don’t really believe it is a love story – it’s hugely romantic if you’re defining romance in terms of powerful, passionate emotions between a man and a woman, but it’s more a novel about passion and possession and power than a long-lasting love that would translate easily into the happy-ever-after ending romances promise the readers – the reason readers come back to them again and again. But the love these two share is ultimately a destructive one – it is a wild, ferocious storm of emotion and one that, as you say, is so self-absorbed that it has brought misery to so many others in their vicinity. It’s interesting that the real love story – that between younger Catherine and Hareton – seems so mild in comparison that in so many film adaptations it gets left out completely and yet this is a love of real strength that flowers in spite of the very rough ground it grows on and both Catherine 2 and Hareton defy the dangers of Heathcliff’s rage quietly and steadily as they grow to care for each other. In the end, the wild passion brings nothing but destruction, while the love story promises the hope of rebuilding a future. Together.

So that’s some of what I had to contend with - giving my Heath and Kat the understanding and strength of love, forgiveness, sharing while trying not to diminish them in the passionate, tempestuous love that readers remember from Wuthering Heights. I also had to make two characters who some readers find totally hateful, cruel and even downright evil, believably sympathetic and ultimately loveable.

Laura: You mention in your letter to the reader that when you were a child your
teacher started to read us Wuthering Heights. We only ever heard the start of the story - up to the moment when Heathcliff turned his back on Cathy and walked away to make his fortune - so I didn't know what happened until I found a copy on my mother's bookshelves [...] I had always hoped that Wuthering Heights would have a happy-ever-after for Cathy and Heathcliff. But even from the start I had somehow known that that wasn't going to be. (2)
Heathcliff has often been described, along with Mr Darcy and Mr Rochester, as a romantic hero, but I wonder if, in order to turn him into a romance hero, a reader has to adopt the position of Isabella Linton who, as Heathcliff says, eloped with him "under a delusion [...] picturing in me a hero of romance" (Chapter 14), having dismissed Catherine's warnings:
'I wouldn't be you for a kingdom [...] !' Catherine declared, emphatically: and she seemed to speak sincerely. 'Nelly, help me to convince her of her madness. Tell her what Heathcliff is: an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation: an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone. [...] It is deplorable ignorance of his character, child, and nothing else, which makes that dream enter your head. Pray, don't imagine that he conceals depths of benevolence and affection beneath a stern exterior! He's not a rough diamond - a pearl-containing oyster of a rustic: he's a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man. [...] avarice is growing with him a besetting sin. [...] There's my picture: and I'm his friend. [...]' (Chapter 10)
Is he a good template on which to base a Mills & Boon hero? Mills & Boon state that in the line of novels you write for,
When the hero strides into the story he's a powerful, ruthless man who knows exactly what - and who - he wants and he isn't used to taking no for an answer! Yet he has depth and integrity.

Kate Walker: Your question makes me think of the many different ways I’ve ‘read’ Heathcliff over my lifetime, and more rereadings of Wuthering Heights than I can count. When I first heard the story of Heathcliff – just the beginning as you’ve described above – I fell head over heels with the hero of that story. I saw him so much as the wronged victim, lost, orphaned, treated appallingly by Hindley. It wasn’t until I found the whole book and read the complete story that my opinions started to change. I could see exactly why my schoolteacher had stopped where he did – and never finished the story for his class of 10-11 year olds. And yes, I think that early feeling, seeing him as a romantic hero, does have to be under a delusion [...] picturing in me a hero of romance.

Ever since then, each time I read the book I feel slightly different about Heathcliff. He’s brutal, cruel, he treats his own son appallingly, he hangs Isabella’s dog – when I said I was reworking Wuthering Heights, it was amazing how many people cited that as a reason to detest him rather than the way he treats the people who have the misfortune to be part of his plan of revenge and then his savagery after the loss of Cathy.

That’s when he ceases to be a hero for me now – when he loses depth and integrity. If I create a hero who is looking for revenge then he needs to take out his revenge on the person who deserves it, not her sister-in-law or her daughter or someone else who is linked to the person who hurt him, but isn’t directly involved in the hurt he has suffered. So my Heath can take revenge on Kat’s brother Joe, who, like Hindley, treated him appallingly and in Wuthering Heights Hindley is the author of his own downfall.

Writing a Modern Romance for Mills and Boon today, the trick is to make the hero ambiguous and open to different interpretations so that the reader initially believes that he is “an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation: an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone.” But in reality he “conceals depths of benevolence and affection beneath a stern exterior!” Heathcliff is as Cathy describes him – “He's not a rough diamond - a pearl-containing oyster of a rustic: he's a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man” but he has intense romantic appeal in that so many people say ‘who wouldn’t want to be loved like that?’ - but that’s a dangerous, destructive ‘love’ even if it is intensely passionate.

So – both as a writer and as a person, I couldn’t justify Heathcliff’s behaviour, no matter how badly he has been treated in his youth; the revenge he exacts – and the people he destroys as a result – are out of all proportion. I need to have a hero who is a man of honour, who is a powerful, ruthless man who knows exactly what he wants but who doesn’t lie, cheat, hurt people just for hurting’s sake. Ambiguous maybe – but not downright cruel and evil.

Laura: I don't want to spoil the fun for readers who'd like to compare the two novels, so I shan't discuss this in detail, but it struck me that in addition to the changes you've made to the personality of Heathcliff, you've also made very significant changes to Edgar Linton and (I don't think this is a spoiler since it's revealed very early on) in a sense you've also literally sacrificed him so that your Kat can have her happy ending. Did you to some extent merge Edgar Linton with Linton Heathcliff to produce your Arthur Charlton? It certainly seemed to me that your Kat is a mixture of both Catherines, and that your Heath is a mixture of Heathcliff and Hareton. If so, it seemed to me that you had some textual justification for writing them like this because Linton bears a "strong [...] resemblance" (Chapter 19) to his uncle Edgar, the Catherines are mother and daughter and share the same name and, towards the end of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff says that "Five minutes ago, Hareton seemed a personification of my youth" (Chapter 33).

Kate Walker: One of the problems of writing a very much shorter book and one that obviously cannot possibly have the depth of Emily Brontë’s amazing original is that there isn’t space in 55,000 words to develop anything more than the central plot, or to bring in a large cast of secondary characters. (Though interestingly several people have commented on the fact that The Return of The Stranger actually has a bigger ‘cast’ than I usually deal in!) Some characters had to go, some had to be changed. Wuthering Heights has so many deaths in it but more than one would overload a short romance, but if Kat and Heath were to have their happy ending, I had to deal with the question of her marriage to Edgar/Arthur – and do so within the short space of the timeframe of a romance. No chance for 31 years and several generations as Emily Brontë had. Just as I’ve always had ambiguous feelings about Heathcliff, I’ve never seen Edgar as a sweet, lovable, caring man who was going to be a good husband to Cathy. When we first see Edgar, he and his sister have been fighting over a puppy – “That was their pleasure – to fight over a heap of warm hair, and each begin to cry because both, after struggling to get it, refused to take it” (Chapter 6). They hurt the puppy in this exchange – shades of Heathcliff’s callous treatment of Isabella’s dog. And later Edgar can be petulant, petty, mean . . So I already had a feeling of Edgar having a lot in common with his nephew Linton – and really Emily Brontë doesn’t show either of the Lintons as being anything but spoilt and pretty selfish. So I could combine all of these characteristics – with the strong possibility that one in particular might apply to Linton Heathcliff to create the character of Kat’s husband.

I think you’re right in that yes the two Catherines could be said to merge in Kat, and Heathcliff and Hareton could be said to merge into Heath. Catherine Earnshaw certainly needs softening - she is a very difficult, wild and selfish character. Though it was never that deliberate or thought out. I had created my central characters, and then they took on a life of their own – but because I needed to add in those ‘lovable’ elements to make their happy ending work, they inevitably ended up with aspects of the two people who in the original novel are capable of a loving relationship. It’s interesting that you’ve read it in this way when you are studying the book objectively and I would say that I didn’t rationalise these elements, but was working creatively - and now I can see that yes they are there. It’s one of the questions that fascinates me with my two ‘hats’ on – how much of the symbolism and the elements that critics analyse so much were deliberate planning on Emily’s part, and how much was just the burning flow of her imagination working on a deeper instinctive level.

Laura: The Harlequin/Mills & Boon line you write for is characterised by "smouldering intensity and red-hot desire." There's certainly intensity in the relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Catherine, for example, states that
My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. (Chapter 9)
However, this isn't exactly the same as 'red-hot desire' and Patsy Stoneman has recently argued that
The relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff [...] follows the many intense brother-sister relationships found in the Romantic poetry of Byron and Shelley, and is inevitably tragic since it cannot be consummated except in nostalgia for childhood or anticipation of death.
I noticed that in your novel it's revealed that, at the point when Heath left Kat, her feelings for him were childlike: "He had become a man when she was still lingering in girlhood - still in so many ways a child - so that she hadn't recognised what was growing between them" (135-36). What's your view of the nature of the relationship between the original Catherine and Heathcliff?

Kate Walker: There’s a lot of evidence for Patsy Stoneman’s argument – if you study a timeline for Wuthering Heights, Catherine is only just 15 when Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights to make his fortune. Her birthdate is around 28th May 1765 and Heathcliff leaves about August 1780. Catherine is in fact only 18 when she dies. And Heathcliff is just about 20. So they are very young in the early part of the story. Some film versions and TV adaptations have made their early relationship a very sexual one, but the passion and devotion inspired by longing and non-consummation of their relationship is perfectly believable too. Today we tend to think in terms of passion being sexual but sexual anticipation, sexual tension builds the intensity harder and stronger in a story as in life.

There’s a possibility of interpreting Catherine’s ‘madness’ and decline to her death as being strongly connected with her pregnancy as well as the emotional upheaval of Heathcliff’s return etc. If Cathy and Edgar marry about 12th March 1783, and she dies giving birth to young Cathy, I have felt that there it is possible to read into the book the fact that in marriage, coming up against the reality of sexual love between a man and a woman, she longs for the ‘innocence’ and intensity of the relationship of their youth and the loss of the freedom of their childhood.

Again this is something that I’ve read differently at different stages of my own life – when I first saw a TV production of Wuthering Heights it was the 1967 version with a young Ian McShane as Heathcliff. I was young and impressionable too - and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could not want to go to bed with him! But even at 25, McShane was older than Heathcliff ever was when Cathy was alive. But then I didn’t register quite how young Cathy and Heathcliff were. It wasn’t until I studied the book as a critic rather than swallowed it whole as a passionate reader that I started to wonder and question. I suspect that if Heathcliff and Cathy had slept together then their relationship would not have been lived at the intensity it is. And if Heathcliff knows that Edgar has been Cathy’s lover his jealousy will be all the more savage. Certainly I found that this worked very well for me with the characters I had created and the relationship that developed between them.

This all of course begs the question of what Emily Brontë, spinster, clergyman’s daughter, knew of sex. I still remember when I did my MA thesis reading a totally serious discussion of Emily having a French lover – possibly one she met in Belgium – called Louis Parensell. This was in fact the result of Virginia Moore misreading the handwritten title of Emily’s poem Love’s Farewell. So we don’t know - but there is a lot of the same ardent yearning and passion in Emily’s sister Charlotte’s relationship with M Heger so she might have drawn on some of that for inspiration.

I used the fact that Cathy was so young when Heathcliff left as part of the story of The Return of The Stranger because it’s in the original and because it fitted well with adding another dimension to the reason Heathcliff left. The famous words It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff (Chapter 9) that Catherine Earnshaw declares were perfectly justifiable when they were written – even more when you consider that Wuthering Heights is in fact a historical novel, set over 70 years before the date when Emily wrote it. It would have degraded her to marry the servant Hindley had made him. But that wouldn’t fit with the 21st century mentality. We would expect love to conquer all, no matter what position in life the hero and heroine hold. And I couldn’t make Heath stay under Joe’s oppressive rule for too long or he wouldn’t appear heroic if he didn’t fight back. But if he went away to make something of himself and because he knew that the feelings he was having for this young girl were sexual then that fitted.

Laura: You've made your hero Brazilian and called him Heath Montanha (which means "mountain," I think). I thought that was quite clever, and it also occurred to me that you have some textual authorisation for giving Heathcliff a new nationality. After all, Nelly Dean once suggested to him that
Who knows, but your father was Emperor of China, and your mother an Indian queen, each of them able to buy up, with one week's income, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange together? And you were kidnapped by wicked sailors, and brought to England. Were I in your place, I would frame high notions of my birth. (Chapter 7)
Indeed, your own novel recalls that passage when Heath states that "you were the one who once told me that my father could have been an emperor of China" (29). In addition, the original novel is told by one narrator (Mr Lockwood) who is recounting the details told to him by another narrator (Nelly Dean) and questions have been raised about their reliability. Did these things make you feel more comfortable about creating your own version of the story?

Kate Walker: There’s lot of justification for considering that Heathcliff is not English, that he might have a partly or totally foreign heritage. In fact, because he is so dark in appearance there is the possibility that he was black. And the latest actor to be cast as Heathcliff, James Howson, is black. Lockwood describes Heathcliff as: “a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect...” (Chapter 1) and Mr Linton says in Chapter 6:
 Oho! I declare he is that strange acquisition my late neighbour made, in his journey to Liverpool—a little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway. 
And when he is first brought to Wuthering Heights, no one understands him:
yet when it was set on its feet, it only stared round, and repeated over and over again some gibberish that nobody could understand. (Chapter 4)
So there was plenty there to give him a different nationality.

Then there was the fact that Mr Earnshaw had found Heathcliff in Liverpool, a busy international port – and Heathcliff could have arrived there on any of the boats. I assumed that boats would arrive there from the west, from the Americas – and that was also where Heath could go to start his new life after he left High Farm. I also needed to explain his absence and his return as a wealthy man. No one says how Heathcliff made his money and in fact Emily Brontë didn’t really need to say how he came by it, but I did. There are suspicions that he was a gambler, or in the army – or even connected to the slave trade. The reference to America meant that I could use that, and send him back there to make his fortune. But I wanted something wilder, more elemental for Heath so South America worked better for me. It also gave me a chance to give him a surname that was as close to Heath Cliff as I could go!

Laura: Harlequin/Mills & Boon romances are short novels and having read the Mills & Boon guidelines on 'How to Write the Perfect Romance', in which it's stated that
I don't like secondary characters - use with caution! You're writing a romance, readers are interested in your hero and heroine so keep the focus on them.
I think it would be fair to say that a Mills & Boon editor would not respond to Nelly Dean's detailed account in the same way that Mr Lockwood did:
'Sit still, Mrs. Dean,' I cried, 'do sit still, another half hour! You've done just right to tell the story leisurely. That is the method I like; and you must finish in the same style. I am interested in every character you have mentioned, more or less. (Chapter 7)
Were there elements or aspects of Wuthering Heights which you'd have liked to include (or include in more detail) but which you had to cut out (or down)?

Kate Walker: Emily Brontë’s book is a far more lengthy and complicated story than the one I’ve written. I am only dealing with one small section of the whole book and focussing on one element – the Cathy/Heathcliff story and working it into a love story. I needed to concentrate on that. I also have to make it clear who is the hero, the heroine and what is the truth about their relationship. Like all the narrators in Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean isn’t a trustworthy reporter, she’s partial and inclined to slant her narrative in a way that leaves questions unanswered and makes answers unreliable. As a result, obviously, I’ve had to cut and simplify, make sure that the focus stays on the hero and heroine and nowhere else.

One of the obvious things I had to do was to remove Edgar/Arthur from the scene, and to have his relationship with Kat come out in talk between her and Heath. Originally I had planned that Heath would flirt more with Isabella to make Kat jealous, but this didn’t work from the point of view of a man of integrity. I would have liked to work more on Heath’s relationship with Kat’s brother Joe, and Joe’s son Harry. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff’s relationship with Hareton is complicated and ambiguous – Hareton is his enemy’s son, the child of the man he hates, but he is also Cathy’s nephew – and constantly reminds him of the woman he has lost. Hareton is one of the few people who has feelings for Heathcliff, he is loyal to him and he weeps in bitter earnest (Chapter 34) when Heathcliff dies. I would have liked to show Heath work through the demons of his past with the man who had treated him so badly. But I was writing a romance and as you have quoted, the focus of a romance has to be on the hero and heroine, so that’s where my spotlight had to stay through the book.

Laura: Thanks very much for visiting Teach Me Tonight and answering my questions!
The picture of Emily Brontë came from Wikipedia.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reworking Classics: Powerful? Pure?

Liz Mc2 writes that
Several years ago I taught a first-year Major Themes in Literature course I called “Transformations.” All the readings had transformations of various kinds in them, and I paired “classic” texts with later “transformations” by other writers. [...] A modern re-imagining can shine new light on a classic and vice versa, and the pairings help students find a way in to reading analytically. [...]
Taking on a beloved classic is an enterprise fraught with peril, and though Kate Hewitt says in an interview with CataRomance that she “leapt at the chance” to rewrite Emma for a Harlequin Presents series paying homage to romantic classics, she is also frank about the difficulties. The Matchmaker Bride didn’t work for me as well as The Man Who Could Never Love for two reasons: a) Austen’s tart, ironic narrative style isn’t a good match for Hewitt’s sweet sincerity (that sounds belittling, but I like that about Hewitt); b) Emma–and Austen’s Augustan restraint generally–isn’t a good fit for Harlequin Presents, a line characterized by angsty, over the top emotion. Moreover, although it ends with a slew of marriages, Emma is far less shaped by the plot conventions of romance than Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion. It’s a comedy of manners about the heroine’s education. Matchmaker Bride felt caught between the conflicting demands of its source and its Harlequin category.
Tomorrow I'll be posting an interview with Kate Walker about her contribution to the mini-series Hewitt was contributing to. As Kate Walker has explained elsewhere, it's a
four book mini-series, The Powerful and the Pure. These books are by four different Modern authors, myself, Sharon Kendrick, Kate Hewitt, Cathy Williams, and the series description was on the ‘concept page’ in the books:
The Powerful and The Pure
When Beauty Tames the Brooding Beast
From Mr Darcy to Heathcliff, the best romantic heroes have always been tall, dark, and dangerously irresistible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spot the Difference Again?

Last month we took a look at the covers of Maisey Yate's The Highest Price to Pay. This month I'm intrigued by the differences in the covers for Susan Stephens's Maharaja's Mistress. It was first released in the UK in November 2010 with this cover

According to the excerpt available via Mills & Boon, Mia Spencer-Dayly has "dark, cropped hair" (8) and facial scars. She acquires the short hair, at least, on the Australian cover from December 2010, but now the model for the Maharaja, at least in my opinion, looks like he could equally well be one of HM&Bs Greek/Italian/Spanish/Sheik heroes:

and the September 2011 Harlequin edition reuses the Australian rather than the UK photo:

Analysing covers and iconography isn't my forte, but I can tell that the UK cover and models look different from the Australian/Harlequin one. Anyone want to help me out by providing some analysis?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Pleasures and Possibilities of History

Writing in The Telegraph Sarah Gristwood recently asked "why have we fallen in love with historical fiction – and why are more authors writing it?" and came up with a variety of answers. The first of these was that
Readers can readily justify this sort of fiction because they believe it’s respectable, almost intellectually improving – after all, they reason, the plot’s based on real events (or most of it is). There’s a faint extra frisson of self-satisfaction at the thought we’re not just wasting our time – we’re learning something. Most of us would not necessarily be picking up the same tale from the non-fiction history section.
Historical romances are perhaps less closely "based on real events" than many other kinds of "historical fiction" because romances generally don't feature real historical figures as their protagonists. Nonetheless, in the course of a heated discussion about "mistorical" romances taking place at Dear Author, Jane argues
that the average reader thinks that the historical is accurate. I know that I did. I had no idea that Julie Garwood’s depictions of Scottish highlanders were so very wrong. I’m glad I know now that they aren’t accurate and I don’t enjoy them any less. But I’ve heard many a reader exclaim that they learned x, y, z from a historical romance book they’ve read.
Jane's expectation of historical accuracy matches that of Janice Radway's "Smithton" romance readers:
All of the Smithton women cited the educational value of romances in discussion as other readers apparently have when questioned by researchers for Harlequin, Fawcett, and Silhouette. Romance editors are all very aware of the romance reader's penchant for geographical and historical accuracy. (108)
and if we go back to the nineteenth century and its historical fictions, it has been suggested that they
were often taken by their audience to be representing an historical reality. Charles Dickens' novels, such as [...] A Tale of Two Cities, came to be seen as valid representations of the conditions of life and social injustice in Victorian Britain; Leo Tolstoy found the constraints of historical enquiry devoid of the human condition so, in War and Peace, produced an epic tale of tragedy and conflict that depicts individual experience and emotion; Walter Scott's Waverley and Rob Roy revived an interest in Scottish history; and Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is believed to have encouraged a cultural heritage society to protect Parisian monuments. Historical fiction was lauded for generating a popular interest in social and national history, namely because it was more accessible than biography or "proper" history. (Young 3)
Gristwood's second explanation for the popularity of historical fiction is that,
aside from smug self-improvement, we read historical fiction because it’s wonderfully exotic and simultaneously comfortingly predictable. Predictable, because we have a vague idea of what happens – but that doesn’t stop the race to the conclusion being as heart-in-the-mouth as other dramatic novels. Exotica comes in the fact that the past is another country: they did things differently there.
Historical romances may not be "wonderfully exotic and simultaneously comfortingly predictable" in precisely the same way as historical fictions based on known historical events, but they nonetheless combine the exotic and the predictable. The profusion of Dukes, elegant gowns, and tight breeches provide a touch of the exotic while predictability is assured in part through the dominance of the English-set Regency historical and perhaps also because of the way in which that period of history is presented. Jane Aiken Hodge, for example, writing about Georgette Heyer's fiction, states that "it is comfortable to find oneself in a world where the rules are so clearly established, where privilege and duty go hand in hand, and a terrible mockery awaits anyone who takes advantage of position" (41-42).

Lillian S. Robinson argues that although women's historical fiction has the potential to offer the reader an "image [...] of social forces, their effect on large historical developments, and the influence of both on the lives of actual or imaginary women" (206) in practice that image is often
limited to aspects of life that remain the major feminine preoccupations, even as professional and political opportunities for women have increased in our own times; in this sense, they provide affirmation of present experience rather than the vicarious experience they are often dismissed for offering. Moreover, since historical fiction almost invariably takes the position that progress is desirable and that which in character, taste, or judgment most resembles present Western civilization is best of all, the context is created for a melioristic approach to historical process. At the same time, human personality tends to be portrayed as static, in that the most admirable and heroic characters have a modern view of themselves and what happens to them. The general impression one comes away with is that things used to be different (harder) for women way back then [...], but that women themselves were precisely the same. (206-07)
I think there's plenty to argue with in Robinson's statement (and it should be noted that her article was published in 1978, so reflects her view of the historical fiction available at that time). There may be, for instance, a fair amount of nostalgic historical fiction which "takes the position that progress" has led to the loss of important values etc. Pamela Morsi, for example, who found "the two decades before the Great War [...] a fascinating and fertile period for romance" (150) acknowledges that "The golden age of small town America is full of myth and nostalgia" (150).

Nonetheless, Robinson draws attention both to the way in which history is filtered through the perceptions and values of the author and to the way in which certain issues are prioritised while others are generally left under-explored. Georgette Heyer, who is often cited in discussions about historical accuracy in romance, does indeed provide a fair amount of "accurate and factual information" (Kloester xv) but
Religion as a mainspring of human behaviour simply did not exist for her. When Harold swears on the reliquaries and then breaks his oath, the question is of man's betrayal of man; God does not enter into it. Religion and the part it plays in human affairs was one of the things Georgette Heyer chose to leave out of her books. (Aiken Hodge 26)
and although she does mention the plight of the urban poor she does so only extremely briefly and only in relatively few of her novels. As Aiken Hodge observes,
Her Regency world is a very carefully selected, highly artificial one. Reading her books, one remembers with surprise that the post-Waterloo years in which many of them are set were ones of appalling depression and poverty in England, with ex-servicemen begging in the streets and a very real danger of revolution. (87-88)
It should be noted here that selectiveness and biases don't just affect novelists:
many scholars now discuss how history can be a construction reliant on the ideological perspective of the historian, as much as the documents she selects and those she ignores. This is a paradox that exists at the heart of the argument between traditional historians and writers of fiction who believe they are constructing historical realities. (Young 8)
Finally, Gristwood suggests that
Historical fiction also gives fresh life to well-worn ploys that had begun to look a little weary. Take unresolved sexual tension – or ''UST” as television scriptwriters used to call it. Hard to pull off in today’s free and easy society. But in any age before the sexual revolution, there was a good reason why a state of delicious distance should be prolonged almost indefinitely.
The suggestion that historical settings may appeal  to authors because of the plot and characterisation possibilities they offer rings true to me. Candice Proctor states that
Whether we like it or not, modern genre fiction typically fails or succeeds commercially not so much because of the "quality" of its writing (by which I mean vivid characterizations, graceful use of prose, avoidance of clichés, etc) but because of the extent to which it plugs into reader fantasies. (18)
History can certainly be used to facilitate or plug into certain "reader fantasies." Gristwood mentions the benefits of a historical setting when creating "unresolved sexual tension"; marriages of convenience and guardian/ward plots can be found in contemporaries but they fit much more easily into historical settings. That said, the plot and characterisation possibilities opened up by a historical setting are certainly not limited to those which appeal to "reader fantasies" of a sexual nature. Jo Beverley, for example, has stated that
One of the appeals of the medieval setting is the power of honor in those times, often seen as conflict between the social honor of feudalism and the personal honor of Christianity. (35)
Can you think of any other pleasures or possibilities offered by historical romances and their settings?
  • Aiken Hodge, Jane. The Private World of Georgette Heyer. 1984. London: Arrow, 2006.
  • Beverley, Jo. "An Honorable Profession: The Romance Writer and Her Characters." North American Romance Writers. Ed. Kay Mussell and Johanna Tuñón. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 1999. 32-36.
  • Gristwood, Sarah. "Historical fiction: Our new literary guilty pleasure when buying books." The Telegraph. 30 Aug 2011.
  • Kloester, Jennifer. Georgette Heyer's Regency World. 2005. London: Arrow, 2008.
  • Morsi, Pamela. "A Working Class Romance." North American Romance Writers. Ed. Kay Mussell and Johanna Tuñón. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 1999. 149-52.
  • Proctor, Candice. "The Romance Genre Blues or Why We Don't Get No Respect." Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty-First Century Views of Popular Romance Novels. Ed. Sally Goade. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2007. 12-19.
  • Radway, Janice A. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. 1984. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1991.
  • Robinson, Lilian S. "On Reading Trash." Sex, Class, & Culture. 1978. New York: Methuen, 1986. 200-22.
  • Young, Samantha. Based on a True Story: Contemporary Historical Fiction and Historiographical Theory. Otherness: Essays & Studies 2.1 (2011).
The image, which I downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, is "History, mosaic by Frederick Dielman. House Members Room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C." and "Photographed 2007 by Carol Highsmith (1946–), who explicitly placed the photograph in the public domain." In the mosaic
The figure of History, in the mosaic's center, holds a pen and book. On both sides of her, there are tablets mounted in a marble wall with benches on either side of the tablets. The tablets contain the names of great historians: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Tacitus, Baeda, Comines, Hume, Gibbon, Niebuhr, Guizot, Ranke, and the Americans, Bancroft, and Motley. [...]
The female figure on one side of History is Mythology. As the symbol of the theories of the universe, she holds a globe of the earth in her left hand. [...] Tradition, the aged woman seated on the other side of History, represents medieval legend and folk tales. She is shown in the midst of relating her old wives' tales to the young boy seated before her.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Plethora of CFPs

There are so many CFPs to post about that I'm only giving the minimum of details about each and providing a link to more information. The topics covered are: desire, women's writing, revenge, femininities and masculinities, medievalism, monsters, and American culture.
Desire: From Eros to Eroticism

The students of the Department of Comparative Literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center present an interdisciplinary graduate student conference on November 10-11, 2011. [...]

Please submit a 300 word abstract for a 15-20 minute paper by September 15, 2011.
More details here.

The Fourth Biennial International Conference of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association
Contemporary Women’s Writing: (Wo)Man and the Body
11-13 July 2012

[...] Selected papers will be published in a special issue of Contemporary Women’s Writing (an AHCI journal published by Oxford University Press)

Applications and abstracts: 20 September 2011 (a newly extended deadline)
More details (but still giving the previous deadline) here.

Deadline: 3rd October 2011

For the Autumn 2011 issue of Forum, we invite submissions which explore representations of revenge in literature, art and film.
More details here.

2nd Global Conference
Femininities & Masculinities
Thursday 3rd May – Saturday 5th May 2012
Prague, Czech Republic
[...] 300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 4th November 2011. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 9th March 2012.
More details here.

Medieval Popular Culture and Arthurian Legends at the 42nd Annual Popular and American Culture Associations Conference
April 11-14th, 2012, Boston, Massachusetts

[...] we especially encourage abstracts on the following for this year’s conference [...] Paranormal romance and medievalism

[...] Deadline: December 15, 2011
More details here.

Monsters: Subject, Object, Abject

Thursday 12th - Sunday 15th April 2012
Manchester Museum
Manchester, United Kingdom

[...]Please send 300-word abstracts to the conference convenors by Sunday 1st January 2012.
More details here.

Studies in American Culture welcomes the submission of essays on all aspects of American culture, including studies of the literature, language, visual arts, and history of the United States, and from all scholarly and critical approaches.

Submissions for the October 2012 issue (35.1) must arrive by April 1, 2012.
More details here and here. "Studies in American Culture is a publication of the Popular Culture Association in the South and American Culture Association in the South" and they also have an online journal: Studies in Popular Culture.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

CFP: Love and Religion

The Journal of Popular Romance Studies is looking for essays, interviews, and pedagogical materials on love and religion in global popular culture, for a special issue guest-edited by Lynn S. Neal (Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction). How do film, fiction, popular music, and other media represent the complex relationships between love and religion? How do these representations compare across national, cultural, and theological divides, and what happens when they cross those boundaries? How have they changed over time? What can a sophisticated understanding of love in religious discourse—from whatever tradition—teach us about individual songs, films, novels, or other popular texts?

Topics of particular interest include:

  • Theologies of love in popular song: Leonard Cohen, U2, Richard Thompson, Al Green, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Niyaz, Shye Ben-Tzur, etc.
  • Sacred and secular love in popular culture: drawing boundaries, blurring distinctions
  • Interfaith romance (Jewish / Christian, Hindu / Muslim, etc.) in popular culture
  • Love, Religion, and Politics in popular culture
  • Romance vs. Religion: warnings, advice literature, debates over idolatry, etc.
  • Romantic love as a surrogate or secular religion
  • Christian inspirational romance fiction, and its non-Christian equivalents: studies of individual novels, publishing lines, reader behavior, etc.
  • Crossover texts and figures: Rumi, the Song of Songs, etc.
  • God as lover and beloved in popular culture
  • Sacred love stories in popular culture (Krishna / Radha, Majnun / Layla, Adam / Eve, etc.)
  • One Love, or many? Rastafari, Wiccan, and other traditions of love in popular culture
Published by the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR), the peer-reviewed Journal of Popular Romance Studies is the first academic journal to focus exclusively on representations of romantic love across national and disciplinary boundaries. Our editorial board includes representatives from English, Comparative Literature, Ethnomusicology, History, Religious Studies, African American Studies, and other fields. JPRS is available without subscription at

Please submit scholarly papers of no more than 10,000 words by June 1, 2012, to An Goris, Managing Editor managing(dot)editor(at) jprstudies(dot)org. Longer manuscripts of particular interest will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format.

The text came from Lynn S. Neal and JPRS. The images etc have been added by me. The YouTube video contains a song, "Who is the Loved One" by Sami Yusuf. The photo of Jewish Rhapsodies for Those In Love came from Flikr via The Contemporary Jewish Museum. The image of Kamadeva came from Wikimedia Commons, as did the photo of Sue McFarlane's tombstone, which was taken by Alan Walker. It reads

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Various Links

Jessica from Read React Review will be teaching Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me as part of her Ethics and Fiction course:
I decided I wanted to do two things in this unit: (1) ask whether genre fiction is as worthy a subject of ethical criticism as literary fiction (Wayne Booth explicitly says no, and most other ethical critics implicitly reject this possibility), and (2) introduce feminist critique as a mode of ethical critique. I also wanted something fun, since pretty much everything else I assigned is a real downer. I think Bet Me is a fun book that can work in all of those ways.
Sarah Frantz was interviewed by Heidi Cullinan and mentioned that
I’ve got an academic anthology I edited coming out next year: New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction. My article in there talks about Joey Hill’s BDSM romance, Holding the Cards. I’m ALSO in the (very slow) process of writing a book called ALPHA MALE: POWER AND MASCULINITY IN AMERICAN POPULAR ROMANCE FICTION. I’ll have a chapter in there about m/m romance.
Linda Hilton has posted about her Honours thesis (from 2000) and mentions that
I was able to read one romance novel after another and see where the woman’s voice had been silenced, her power neutralized, her body appropriated, her desires perverted --- BUT, I could also see where the woman’s power and autonomy had been left intact, where she had submitted only because she had no choice and because it was the way to maintain what little autonomy was granted to her.
On a related note, DM guestblogged at Dear Author about the "Defeated Heroine." She
used to dismiss Radway and her work as elitist and blinkered, but after a recent glom of Madeline Hunter’s Regencies, and Lara Adrian’s Breed books (Adrian’s series title kinda says it all…) I started to feel uncomfortable. There seemed to be a message in these books, conscious or unconscious on the part of the authors, that supported Radway’s conclusions.
Sunita wrote a post about "Jewish stereotypes in Georgette Heyer’s novels." She notes with regards to The Grand Sophy that
The Sourcebooks version changes Heyer’s original wording from
The instinct of his race made him prefer, whenever possible, to maintain a manner of the utmost urbanity,
His instinct made him prefer, whenever possible, to maintain a manner of the utmost urbanity,
But editors can’t do much about the name, and they keep the stereotypical descriptors, e.g., “greasy” and “ingratiating,” not to mention the “Semitic nose.”
Apart from the importance of analysing the depiction of race in romances, this post also reminded me that one can't assume that the text of a second or subsequent edition of a romance is identical to that of the original. I don't know if Sourcebooks indicate that their edition differs from the original but I've certainly come across examples of romances in which changes have been made to a subsequent edition and there is no way a reader would know this unless she/he compared the two editions.

Given the popularity of romances about SEALs, I thought I'd mention that
WAR-Net was founded in 2010 by Kate McLoughlin and Gill Plain as a virtual and actual forum for scholars based in northern England and Scotland working on war representation. It now welcomes members from all over the UK and the rest of the world.

Next WAR-Net Meeting: 'Battle-Lines: War and Conflict in Popular Texts and Images' on 1 October 2011 at the University of Dundee.
Romance novels sell well in the Philippines:
written in street-level Tagalog, the books emerged in the early 1980s when an economic crisis forced the importers of western "chick literature" paperbacks to seek out alternatives. [...]

Romance author Maia Jose, who began writing in 1990, said the genre centred on the build-up of a romantic relationship that must end either in marriage or in a commitment.

"The book must be 128 pages long and it's a formula, so it must have a happy ending. If it doesn't have a happy ending the reader would be offended," the mother-of-three said.

The authors typically do not have any formal writing background, with housewives, students and moonlighting accountants among a mixed bag of storytellers.

Jose said she generally took between two and four weeks to write a book, while one particularly prolific writer once churned out nearly 100 in a year. (AFP, via The Independent)